The Day of the Triffids



Book: The Day of the Triffids

Author: John Wyndham

Publisher: Modern Library, republished in  2003

ISBN-13: 978-0812967128

ISBN-10: 0812967127

Related website: (publisher)

Language level: 4

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Older teens and adults

Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Wyndham. John.  The Day of the Triffids (published in 1951 by Doubleday, a division of Random House Inc.; republished in 2003 by Modern Library Paperbacks).  Thirty year old William (Bill) Masen lives in London, England, and is a biologist who works with triffids, strange tall plants that can move around on their own, have a very poisonous sting, and will even feed on dead flesh, but they are cultivated because their oil is quite valuable.  One of Bill’s coworkers, Walter Lucknot, once noted that triffids would be better adapted for survival than people who are blind.  Then Bill is accidentally stung by a triffid and spends a week in a hospital with bandages over his eyes.  He misses the most spectacular meteorite shower which the world has ever seen, but removing his bandages the next morning, he finds masses of people wandering the city who have been blinded by the green flashes.   He soon meets 24 year old wealthy author Josella Playton, another lucky person who has retained her sight because she took a sleeping draught and slept through the meteor shower, and they eventually fall in love.

Bill and Josella discover a group of sighted survivors at the university led by a man named Michael Beadley, who plans to establish a colony in the countryside, and they decide to join the group.  But before they can leave, a man called Wilfred Coker stages a fire at the university and kidnaps a number of sighted individuals, including Bill and Josella, each of whom is chained to a blind person and assigned to lead a squadron of the blind to collect food and other supplies.   However, people begin dying of an unknown plague, and Bill escapes but finds neither Beadley’s group nor Josella.  All the while, the triffids seem to be proliferating.  What has happened to Beadley’s group?  Will Bill ever find Josella?  And how will he cope with the triffids?  On Amazon there was a big discussion about modern versions of this book being edited, abridged, censored, and/or bowdlerized, removing a scene in Chapter 1 when Bill Masen encounters the doctor in the corridors of the hospital who commits suicide and other “adult” parts, and excising all cursing and similar expletives, ostensibly in an attempt to make the story more suitable for children and younger readers.

My copy did not have the doctor’s suicide in Chapter 1, so it must be abridged, but it does contain other suicides along with a very significant amount of cursing and profanity, and some descriptive violence is found as when a sick person is shot through the head, so I would not say that it was necessarily censored or bowdlerized.  Also, there are copious instances of smoking cigarettes and drinking various kinds of alcoholic beverages.  Some relativistic thinking occurs, especially in a discussion of marriage and reproduction, and polygamy is implicit in Beadley’s scheme.  A group with “Christian standards” is portrayed in somewhat of a negative light.  At the same time, someone says, “Whatever the myths that have grown up about it, there can be no doubt that somewhere far back in our history there was a Great Flood.”  One reviewer wrote that author John “Wyndham chillingly anticipates bio-warfare and mass destruction, fifty years before their realization, in this prescient account of Cold War paranoia.”   It is an interesting story, and those who enjoy science fiction with a touch of horror should like the book.  Simon Clark wrote a sequel, The Night of the Triffids (2001), set 25 years after Wyndham’s book.

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